Jan 6, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Brian Kemp says he's "never said a bad word" about Trump

Brian Kemp

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A year after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tells Axios he stands by his condemnation of the attack as a "disgrace," as well as his certification of Joe Biden as the election winner.

  • But Kemp said he's continued to "thank" former President Donald Trump for “all the things that he did to help Georgia. I have never said a bad word about him.”

Why it matters: Trump's continued vengeance against Republicans who rebuffed his calls to block Biden's win is putting incumbents like Kemp on a tight wire in a competitive election season.

Driving the news: Kemp spoke with Axios on Wednesday, ahead of Georgia's upcoming legislative session. He defended sweeping new voting restrictions passed last year by the GOP-led state legislature — and he predicted Georgia's midterm elections will be fair.

  • “We just had mayoral elections all over the state of Georgia, and I didn’t hear a word about suppression or any other issues,” he said.
  • Kemp previewed his plans to boost education funding and teacher pay as well as addressing “kids being indoctrinated in the classroom.”
  • And he promoted his prioritization of a major expansion of gun access in Georgia to allow people to carry guns without a permit.

The big picture: Kemp has been one of Trump’s top targets in the wake of the 2020 election, which the governor refused to overturn. Now, he's facing a major primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue, who's backed by Trump.

The intrigue: Trump has not wavered in his promise to campaign against Kemp after a year ago calling him, among other names, “a fool” and “a clown.” Yet during the interview Kemp avoided directly criticizing him.

  • In September, Trump said that Kemp’s former (and possibly future) Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams would've been a better governor.
  • “I thought it was pretty ridiculous that he would think that," Kemp said on Wednesday. "But I think we'll let the voters decide that. I don't think many Republicans think Stacey Abrams will be a very good governor or president.”

What they're saying: Kemp insists he's not hearing about the last election when he talks to Georgians and that they're more focused on COVID and the economy. “We have people coming up thanking us for staying open, for allowing our kids to be back in classroom,” he said.

  • While Perdue said that if he'd been in Kemp's shoes he would not have certified the election last year without “more information,” Kemp outlined how that would have gone down.
  • The constitution “doesn't say 'I can.' It says, 'I shall.' And so that's what I did. I followed the law," he said.
  • Kemp said if a governor doesn't certify an election, they'd be immediately sued and a court would override the decision.
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